Museum of Contemporary Art

Untitled, 1994, Courtesy Paula Cooper Gallery, New York

January 26, 2007

January 27 – May 27, 2007

Museum of Contemporary Art
220 East Chicago Avenue
Chicago, Illinois 60611
T 312.397.3826
F 312.397.4095

I wanted to be against a certain way of painting. Artists have always been accused of being decorative. I just went to the extreme. — Rudolf Stingel

The Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA), Chicago, opens the new year with Rudolf Stingel, the first major museum exhibition in the United States of renowned international artist Rudolf Stingel, on view from January 27 to May 27, 2007. This twenty-year retrospective takes a comprehensive look at this influential contemporary artist whose work seeks to demystify the artist, the artistic process, and the art object. Celebrated for his explorations of the process of painting and the idea of art, Stingel combines minimalist, conceptual, and performative practices to create unexpected spaces.

Employing a wide-ranging palette of unconventional materials that includes carpet, rubber, painted aluminum, and Styrofoam, Stingel reflects upon fundamental questions facing painting today: authenticity, meaning, hierarchy, and context. By transforming the process and perception of paintings, Stingel’s work alters the viewer’s physical encounter with the artwork, and invites participation in a new and deeper understanding and appreciation of art. When Stingel carpeted New York’s Grand Central Station in 2004, and later covered a lobby floor with a vivid orange rug in Universal Experience: Art, Life, and the Tourist’s Eye at the MCA in 2005, he transformed the spaces into works of art that visitors needed to occupy to experience. Stingel remarked, “This had all the intellectual qualities that I ask from a painting. It’s aggressive, it’s against the system, it’s against the usual way of doing a painting. Once in a while, it’s good to freshen up the air with these kind of things.”

This retrospective, covering Stingel’s work from 1987 to 2007, is curated by Francesco Bonami, MCA Manilow Senior Curator at Large, who says, “Stingel consistently aims to redefine what painting can be, what it has been, and what it is.” Bonami has consistently followed Stingel’s progress over the decades, including his work in four previous exhibitions that he curated at the MCA: Examining Pictures: Exhibiting Paintings (1999), Age of Influence: Reflections in the Mirror of American Culture (2000), Universal Experience: Art, Life, and the Tourist’s Eye (2005), and Figures in the Field: Figurative Sculpture and Abstract Painting from Chicago Collections (2006).

Stingel’s full range of work, including his recent portraits and self portraits, are represented in this career survey, along with a new site-specific installation created for each venue. Unique to the MCA, Stingel is covering the front atrium lobby wall with silver panels that visitors can write on or cut into, altering the work over the course of the exhibition. When Stingel originally showed his silver paintings he found that visitors repeatedly scrawled on them, so he pushed the idea further, challenging visitors to question their ideas about what surfaces invite graffiti. Stingel takes the language of public rest rooms, bus stops, and underpasses and puts them into a museum setting, undermining the space and people’s perception of painting.

Stingel plays with the idea of art and decoration, often placing on the wall what is typically found on the floor, and vice versa. Similar to the way that he may install a carpet on the wall of an exhibition space, Stingel hangs large-scale panels of Styrofoam, some with surfaces that depict deep footprints. To make these Styrofoam works, Stingel steps in acid and then walks across and marks the surface. Both the carpets and the Styrofoam works document the physical interaction between the work and human contact, either by the artist or visitors.

Stingel has produced various bodies of work over the past twenty years that highlight his highly original process of creating art, but the unifying theme of the exhibition is Stingel’s connection with painting. Even the sculptural works such as Untitled (1994-96), depicting an Indian deity with many arms holding a mixer, scissors, paintbrush, spatula, paint tube, and compressed air gun, refer back to painting by holding the essential tools to create a painting in its hands. Although having worked and lived in New York City since 1987 when he left Italy, Stingel continues a European relation to the history of painting that he both parodies and glorifies in the process of his dissection.

For the most recent body of work in the exhibition, Stingel has been focusing on enormous photorealistic portraits and self-portraits. Included in the last Whitney Biennial, Stingel’s self portraits show a dark, melancholic side of the state of mind of the Western artist. These self-referential paintings about painting manage to both criticize and pay tribute to the artistic process at once, with a humor and beauty that can also be subversive.
Whitney Museum of American Art: June 28 – October 14, 2007
The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue, Rudolf Stingel, with essays by Francesco Bonami, MCA Manilow Senior Curator at Large; Chrissie Iles, Anne and Joel Ehrenkranz Curator at the Whitney Museum of American Art; and Reiner Zettl, Assistant Professor at the University of Applied Arts Vienna, Austria. The catalogue provides a comprehensive look at Stingel’s work which seeks to demystify the artist, the artistic process, and the art object. His full range of work, including his recent portraits and self portraits, are represented in this handsome volume. With important contributions by Francesco Bonami and Whitney Curator Chrissie Iles, Rudolf Stingel is the first to examine the broader implications of the artists creative practice in contemporary society. Published in association with the MCA Chicago. 9 1/2 x 11 3/4 in, 256 pages, 90 color illustrations.
Lecture: Deep Content: How Art Means, and Means, and Means
Tuesday, April 24, 6:30 pm, MCA Theater
Jerry Saltz discusses Stingels work focusing on how to interpret and understand it by putting it in an historical context. Senior Art Critic for the Village Voice, Jerry Saltz is currently a Visiting Critic at Columbia University and Yale University. Saltz has been a part of the New York art scene for more than two decades and is known for his passionate opinions, lively writing, and insights about contemporary art and the art scene. This program is made possible by The Gloria Brackstone Solow and Eugene A. Solow, MD, Memorial Lecture Series.
Curator Conversations
Saturday, January 27, noon
MCA Manilow Senior Curator at Large Francesco Bonami leads a tour of the exhibition Rudolf Stingel.
Italian Cultural Institute Talk
Thursday, February 8, 6 pm
MCA Manilow Senior Curator at Large Francesco Bonami gives a talk about Rudolf Stingel‘s work and the exhibition at the Italian Cultural Institute (500 N. Michigan Ave, Suite 1450, 312.822.9545).
Class: Picture Painting
Thursdays, March 8 – April 12, 6-9 pm
Inspired by the Stingel exhibition, this class has students experimenting with different styles of painting using acrylic and watercolor paints. A guest artist comes for a final critique and shares their work and insight with the class. Colorist painter and teacher Barlow has been teaching at the MCA for seven years. He also teaches painting and drawing classes at the Marwen Foundation, Columbia College, and School of the Art Institute.
Rudolph Stingel Family Tours
First Sundays and first Tuesdays of the month from March through May, 11 am Support for Family Programs is provided in part through the MCA Womens Board Family Education Initiative.
Family Days
Saturday, February 24, 10:30 am – 4 pm
Co-presented with the Hyde Park Arts Center
Families can enjoy a full day of fun to celebrate the opening day of Rudolf Stingel and MCA EXPOSED: Defining Moments in Photography, 1967-2007 with the MCA. Family tours, scavenger hunts, prizes, and demonstrations make an exciting day of art activities. Activities are appropriate for all ages and Family Day museum admission is free for families with children 12 and under.

Saturday, April 28, 10:30 am – 4 pm
Co-presented with Lookingglass Theatre Company
Families can enjoy a full day of fun with a family tour of Stingels paintings, a scavenger hunt, prizes, and creation stations all day. Lookingglass Theatre performs throughout the day and teaches families how to make stage props for a play. Activities are appropriate for all ages and Family Day museum admission is free for families with children 12 and under.

Major support for Rudolf Stingel is provided by the Harris Family Foundation in memory of Bette and Neison Harris. Generous support is also provided by Nancy and Sanfred Koltun, Anne and Ken Griffin, Neil G. Bluhm, Anne and Burt Kaplan, and Helen and Sam Zell. Additional support is provided by Sara Szold, Andrea and Jim Gordon, J. Ira and Nicki Harris Family Foundation, Frances Dittmer Family Foundation, Stefan Edlis and H. Gael Neeson, the Istituto Italiano di Cultura Chicago, and Bert A. Lies, Jr. MD and Rosina Lee Yue, and David Teiger. Air transportation is provided by American Airlines, the Official Airline of the Museum of Contemporary Art.

The Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago (MCA) is a private nonprofit, tax-exempt organization accredited by the American Association of Museums. The MCA is generously supported by its Board of Trustees, individual and corporate members, private and corporate foundations, and government agencies including the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency, and the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs. The Chicago Park District generously supports MCA programs. Air transportation services are provided by American Airlines, the official airline of the Museum of Contemporary Art. The MCA is located at 220 E. Chicago Avenue, one block east of Michigan Avenue. The museum and sculpture garden are open Wednesday through Sunday from 10 am to 5 pm and Tuesday from 10 am to 8 pm. The museum is closed on Monday. Enjoy free admission every Tuesday generously sponsored by Target. Children 12 years of age and under, MCA members, and members of the military are admitted free. Information about MCA exhibitions, programs, and special events is available on the MCA website at or by telephone at 312.280.2660.

Erin Baldwin, 312.397.3828,
Karla Loring, 312.397.3834,
John Eding, 312.397.3832,

Museum of Contemporary Art
January 26, 2007

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